Update on the Education OPTIONS Act (4-18-00)

Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the main legislation for K-12 education programs in the Department of Education, is a hot topic in the 106th Congress.  Partially in response to strong constituent demand for change, members of Congress see education reform as a major election-year issue.  As the reauthorization process moves ahead, Congress is discussing the appropriate role and scope of federal control over education, a highly partisan debate.  Differences of opinion in the federal government's role in education have produced several versions of reauthorization legislation, but these different bills will have to be incorporated into a single bill later in the legislative process.  Meanwhile, the House and Senate will continue to hold hearings and debate the various bills.


Representative William Goodling (R-PA), Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, introduced H.R. 4141, the Education Opportunities To Protect and Invest In Our Nation's Students (Education OPTIONS) Act, on March 30, 2000.  H.R. 4141 is the fourth and last of the House bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.  The Education and the Workforce Committee has already reported favorably on the first three bills for the reauthorization: the Teacher Empowerment Act, H.R. 1995; the Student Results Act, H.R. 2; and the Academic Achievement for All Act, H.R. 2300.  Goodling's bill covers the remaining ESEA programs, such as Technology for Education, Safe and Drug-Free schools, Innovative Education Program Strategies, Programs of National Significance, and General Provisions.  The Committee's website contains a summary (PDF) and copy of Rep. Goodling's press release related to the Education OPTIONS Act.

The most significant provision of the Education OPTIONS Act for the geosciences and science, mathematics, engineering and technology (SMET) educators is an independent study on effective professional development.  Title V Programs of National Significance would authorize "an independent study, in consultation with appropriate agencies, which will provide a multi-level coordinated implementation strategy, based on scientifically based research, for effective professional development activities for mathematics and science teachers."

Very few of the programs incorporated in the Education OPTIONS Act are related to science and math education, with the exception of programs related to technology in the classroom.  Title III of  the bill, Tech for Success, would consolidate different technology grants -- with the exception of the Ready-to-Learn Television and the Telecommunications Demonstration Project for Mathematics -- into new formula grants.  Under the Act, "80 percent [of the funds at the local level] would be distributed through a state developed formula targeted toward nigh need LEAs [local education agencies], while the remaining 20 percent would be competitively distributed by the state.  Overall, this represent a significant change from the current law under which the Secretary, through discretionary grants, distributes 42 percent of all technology funds to local school districts and partnerships including schools, higher education institutions, and other education-related entities."  The bill would also require that LEAs use 20 percent of their technology funds to improve and expand teacher professional development in technology.  Education OPTIONS would authorize $731 million for the Tech for Success grant, the same level these programs combined are currently funded.

On April 5th, the House Education and the Workforce Committee began marking up H.R. 4141.  Members of the Committee met for five days to try to work out differences and polish the legislation.  According to the CQ Daily Monitor, "Democrats say the markup would have been smoother had the committee Chairman Bill Goodling, R-Pa., included the minority party in drafting the bill, as he did with previous education proposals."  Numerous amendments were introduced during the meetings, but most passed by a close partisan vote.  The summary of the Education OPTIONS Act on the Committee's website includes the changes introduced during the markup.  After wading through the amendments, the Committee reported favorably on the bill, which passed in a partisan 25-21 vote.  The bill will now be placed on the House legislative calendar for floor debate.

Sources: House Education & the Workforce Committee website, CQ Daily Monitor, National Science Teachers Association, Library of Congress, and National Education Association.


Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs

Last updated April 18, 2000


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